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The Role of New Technology in Advancing African Agri-Food Systems

Discussion Paper

Publication "The Role of New Technology in Advancing African Agri-Food Systems"

The Role of New Technology in Advancing African Agri-Food Systems

Issued on the occasion of The Africa Roundtable “Growing Africa’s Future: Advancing Food Sovereignty through Agricultural Innovation” in May 2024, authored by partner Future Africa Consulting

The Role of New Technology in Advancing African Agri-Food Systems

May 7, 2024

African food systems are shaped by national, continental, and global megatrends. These include a burgeoning middleclass; urbanization and related shifts in food demand; dietary preferences and downstream modernization of food systems; a laborforce shift from farm jobs to nonfarm jobs; and increasing scarcity in farmland.

The continent’s overreliance on imports and food-aid makes it susceptible to supply and price shocks, threatening food sovereignty. Despite having 65% of the world’s unutilized arable land, over 80% of Africa’s basic food imports, comprising of basic and processed foods (mainly wheat, edible oil, maize, and rice), are sourced from outside the continent, and cost an estimated USD 50 billion per year. Moreover, food-aid initiative policies often undermine the continent’s initiatives to produce food locally.

Current efforts to bolster food security across the continent are at various stages of adoption and scale. The discussion paper explores opportunities to drive agricultural innovation across the continent and offers recommendations for stakeholders from the public, Private, and Development Sector.

Technology Spotlights in Innovation

  • Index-Based Agricultural Insurance

    With index-based insurance, payouts are based on objective indices that neither farmers nor insurers can influence. It eliminates the need for individual loss assessments and in turn reduces long-term administrative costs through standardisation and automation. This presents a clear opportunity for growth, but there is still a need to improve the accuracy and affordability of these products.

  • Smart Irrigation Methods

    Artificial intelligence helps farmers monitor and optimize their irrigation strategies. AI algorithms can accurately calculate weather conditions as well as water needs and availability. Combined with AI-driven smart sensors that continuously monitor soil moisture levels, this can save water and promote plant health.

  • Emerging Blockchain Applications

    Blockchain technology facilitates seamless traceability along the value chain, enabling direct exchange between producers and consumers without intermediaries. This promises African farmers fair prices for their produce. However, the effective adoption of blockchain technology on a bigger scale requires an appropriate infrastructure.

  • Digital Financing Solutions

    Inclusive digital finance solutions reduce the costs and risks of agricultural lending. They shorten processing times, increase transparency and enable a wider range of loans, such as financing for vehicles and inputs. Digital finance could close the annual financing gap of 74.5 billion USD for African agricultural small- and medium-sized enterprises (agri-SMEs).

Contact Persons

Stephanie Igunbor,


Our collaborative publications aim to stimulate questioning and discussion. They are the result of a deep engagement with the focus topics of our work and enable a fact-based dialogue.

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